Ones To Watch: Genevieve Clay-Smith
Everybody is on the hunt for young up-and-comers and here at SHESAID we have been lucky enough to meet a selection of them. These ladies are on the road to success and generating waves within their chosen field. Whether they be creatives, sporting talent, founders of start-ups or someone striving to make a real difference, these young women are definitely ‘Ones to Watch’.
Who knew that at someone so young could make such an impact? We certainly didn’t, at least that was until we meet Genevieve Clay-Smith. Back in 2009 along with a small but driven team, Genevieve created the short film, Be My Brother, whose protagonist and film crew included Australians from marginalised backgrounds. After the film won first prize and best actor at Tropfest, Genevieve took the initiative to create her own organisation – Bus Stop Films. The pioneering organisation is providing people from all walks of life with the opportunity to become involved with the film industry. So it comes as no surprise that Genevieve’s hard work is being recognised with multiple accolades to her name. This week, we managed to find a spare moment in her busy schedule and see what she’s been up to.
Tell us a bit about you. Where are you from? What do you do?
I am the co-founder and co-owner of a creative agency, Taste Creative, I also voluntarily run a not-for-profit organisation, Bus Stop Films and I am a filmmaker too! So I wear a few hats and have a very hybrid career across business ownership, creative leadership and social entrepreneurship.
When did you discover your talent? What made you want to follow it into a career?
It all started with wanting to be involved in the film industry. Originally I was working towards becoming an actress but at university I discovered I actually had a knack for getting projects started, and making films. While I was at uni I got a job as a trainee filmmaker working on a documentary for Down Syndrome NSW, where I discovered that film could champion positive social change and I was very attracted to the idea that something I make could change and impact society.
Your success at Tropfest in 2009, lead you to found Bus Stop Films. What inspired you to create the film, Be My Brother?
Gerard O’Dwyer was the inspiration behind Be My Brother. He was one of the participants with Down Syndrome in the documentary I was making and he wanted to be an actor. Although he was full of talent and ambition, he’d never had the opportunity to study at a mainstream acting school and get opportunities other young actors might get. So I began questioning, who was going to see him, who was going to help him achieve his goal of acting? And then, a bright idea entered my heart – I call it my miracle moment, and the thought was “why don’t I make a film?”
And so on no budget, with limited resources, I did just that. And on this journey of making a short film starring Gerard, I was ethically driven to also include other young people with disabilities in helping to make the film too. I believed the process of making the film, was just as important as the end result. I wanted to give others the opportunity to learn. So I held a filmmaking workshop for five people with disabilities in a friends lounge room, who then fulfilled crew roles on the film.
What makes Bus Stop Films unique to other organisations?
We heavily focus on engagement with the professional film industry. We focus on using film education to up skill people’s English and literacy skills as well as personal development skills – learning how to be on time and grow self esteem. We teach film theory as well as practical filmmaking and because people are interested and passionate about the topic they step up to my expectations. When I make a film with my students I hold them to the same standards and expectations that I would have of anyone else working on set. It’s quite military. But in having high standards, you show a person that you believe in them and that you respect them, you also give them the opportunity to achieve something, they might never have thought they could.
What have been the stumbling blocks for you, initially getting started and since then? How did you resolve these?
When you think you’ve fixed one problem another one arises, and when you have finally achieved something, it’s all about what’s next. Bus Stop has achieved a lot and created some incredible social impact, but the next step for it now, is how to make it sustainable, and how to give more people access to our program. I am currently working with some amazing people who are supporting me through working out what Bus Stop 2.0 will look like! When I started Bus Stop with my Co-founder Eleanor, I simply tried to connect with as many people as possible who knew more than me, and the Foundation for Young Australians was also a wonderful support which helped me through the very beginning of setting up.
What drives/motivates you to keep going?
I know that our filmmaking program and the films we produce have an impact, and I want more people to gain access to what we’ve developed. I get fan mail every week from people all over the world saying “thank you”. And that is a big driver. I am also very passionate about education, I love teaching people and seeing them grow, I love how sharing my knowledge and passion for film can help a person develop and grow confidence. It’s magic.
Bus Stop Films is now 6 years old, congratulations! How has the organization evolved over the years?
We’ve gone from just making films with people with a disability, to realising that what we’re doing can help other people, like members of the refugee community and CALD communities. It’s all about helping people up-skill through studying a subject of interest, like film. As humans, we all love story telling, we do it everyday, we re-tell stories, we read stories and we watch films. What we do at Bus Stop, can help other people who might need help with English skills, and personal development and also, we can help those who just want to learn more about the industry. Also as my creative agency, Taste Creative has grown we’ve been able to work out pathways for my Bus Stop students to gain work experience and employment on some of our sets.
Your work has brought you some serious recognition, being named 2015 Youth of the Year and winning the Young Leader category of Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence. How has this affected you and your work?
Honestly, it’s been wonderful to get a pat on the back, Bus Stop is voluntarily run on the side of my other work with Taste Creative and I do it for the love of it, so recognition like that simply helps me to keep going and makes me determined to get our program and films out to as many people as possible. I feel like I found something important and impacting and I need to steward it well and ensure that it can reach and help people more broadly.
As a creative, what inspires you?
I love other entrepreneurial stories, I’m very inspired by my friends at Thank You Group and also watching films and reading books inspire me. Even going for walks can help to clear my mind and bring new ideas into my head!
What are your plans for the future and the future of Bus Stop Films?
At Bus Stop we are going on a journey to explore and discover how to impact more people more broadly. We are looking at developing a new business model that will allow it to operate without me, which is very important for any organisation – the exit plan for the founders. I have discovered, only recently, that I am not scalable! The way I teach my workshops and engage with people is unique to my personality and me and can’t be replicated, so the question for us is, how to we give more people access to our program without me? We are looking at how I will set the culture and tone of our program but then ensure we can make it accessible for a wide range of people. It’s an exciting adventure because it means I am taking our impact to the next level and hopefully will help more people at a larger scale than what our current capacity is.
What advice would you give to somebody hoping to follow the same path as you?
Anyone who has an idea to do something, should jump off the deep end and give it ago – find mentors, find like minded people and just start! You might have to make some sacrifices but that’s the price of taking a risk. Also don’t expect it to be easy – if you think it will be easy you’re dreaming, and if you fail – that’s not an excuse to give up, failure is a part of growing and learning, just read Walt Disney’s story and you will be inspired not to let failure dictate your future decisions!
To see more about what Genevieve and her team get up to, head to http://www.busstopfilms.com.au/